When You Can Not Go Any Further

- Kelli J Gavin

I am in love with the state of Tennessee and the Smoky Mountain National Park.  We are here vacationing and staying at a cabin at Shagbark in the mountains.  Our best friends from Georgia met us here and we are enjoying spending time together.  Meals shared around our table of eight.  The last three days we have played dominoes and watched movies and played charades together in the evening. We have also enjoyed going to the local Baptist Church on Sunday morning, tried to swim in the too cold pool, gone to the aquarium, gone shopping, played mini golf, and arcade games.  And we have spent hours catching up laughing together.

Today, we headed into The Smoky Mountain National Park and planned to go to the Grotto Falls.  We found out soon after getting into the National Park that the road leading to Grotto Falls was closed.  We decided to head to Rainbow Falls.  2.7 miles straight up.  I thought I could do it, but I couldn't.  I had surgery in January, and thought I was fine, I was not. The pain set in almost right away.  I only made it about a 3/4 of a mile up. If I had been walking on flat ground, I probably would have gotten a lot further. But today was not my day to climb the mountain to Rainbow Falls.

I had to encourage my husband to go ahead and continue without me.  He didn't want to go. He was concerned about leaving me alone without cell phone coverage in the mountains. I told him I would be fine. I had no intentions of going down the mountain myself and promised him I would stay put and explore.  He was hesitant as we had already encountered three bears. I finally convinced him and he raced to join the rest of our family.

The reason I wasn't sure that I could descend the mountain on my own is because of my crazy cyborg eyes.  I have intraocular lenses in my eyes and struggle with depth perception.  I never feel sure footed especially on steep terrain, rocky paths or uneven ground. I decided I would for sure stay put when I realized that I didn't even have keys for our vehicle.  The National Park was very busy today, so I knew that I would encounter quite a few people along the beaten path.  And I knew they would be curious as to why I was remaining in one location and by myself.

First, I knew I needed to scope the local area and make sure that I knew my surroundings. I came up with a plan if I encountered bears or if I felt in danger for some reason.  There was a large tree I could hide behind.  I knew there was a stone rock wall I could carefully climb down to get out of the way visually. And I can scream and people were almost always within sight, but would for sure hear me.  I had nothing to fear.  I spent more time enjoying nature than anything else.  Pine cones, huge acorns, twisted vines, poisonous centipedes and huge red body daddy long legs.  The singing birds were a beautiful sound along with the constant sound of running water in the creek.

I also had some great conversations. Met a couple from Wisconsin who were a little concerned about me and stayed with me a bit to make sure I was really fine like I said.  They were worried about the bears because just as we sped up and passed them, the momma bear decided climbing on a car in the road was appropriate. They have had a few encounters with bears themselves in Wisconsin.  The woman from Texas was sweating very badly in the 98% humidity.  She was panicked because they had passes to the Dollywood show and she wasn't going to miss the show because of a hike she didn't want to go on in the first place. The funniest conversation I had was with a woman who was more upset about the amount of moonshine she still had in her stomach than the fact that she knew she was never going to make it up the mountain either.

My day was exciting.  I spent a lot of time by myself, but I had a great day.  I enjoyed God's creation, spoke with some interesting people and came up with a makeshift survival plan if I was assaulted by bears.  Rather than getting upset that I physically wasn't able to go all the way to the top, I was thankful that I made it as far as I did. I was overjoyed that no one was asking anything of me and my job was to be immersed in my surroundings.  No, I wasn't able to enjoy the view from the top, but the view from where I was, was pretty amazing.

When you can not go any further, when your body gives out, when pain takes over, when your heart can't do it anymore, never view it as giving up.  Today I made the wise decision to stop, catch my breath and let my body heal. I wasn't giving up, I was changing course. I was experiencing an unplanned adventure that I may never get the chance to experience again.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.  It wasn't a fluke, it wasn't an easy out, my body just wasn't ready to climb a mountain.  And that is alright with me.

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